Congress Votes To Kick Confederate Statues Out of the Capitol
The debate over ditching statues of racists rages on. U.S. lawmakers are currently considering whether to cancel congressional artwork featuring Confederate leaders and other historical figures who defended slavery. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted that they should go.
“Symbols of slavery, segregation, and sedition are not welcome in the halls of Congress,” bill sponsor and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D–Md.) said. “Individuals who worked to enshrine or perpetuate the bondage of African Americans, or prevent them from achieving full and equal rights, are not worthy of being honored in our country.”
In a 285-120 vote, a bipartisan roster of legislators approved getting rid of various monuments and artwork now residing in the Capitol building.
All of the votes against the bill came from Republicans. However, 67 members of the GOP joined with Democrats in approving the measure.
At issue are several works in the National Statuary Hall Collection within the Capitol building. Specifically, the legislation calls for replacing a bust of former Chief Justice Roger Taney—who authored the 1857 Dred Scott ruling declaring that black Americans were not citizens and Congress didn’t have the right to stop slavery in U.S. territories—with a bust of former Associate Justice Thurgood Marshal.
In addition, the bill would order the removal of “all statues of individuals who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America from display in the United States Capitol.” Within 45 days of passage, “all Confederate statues and Confederate busts” must be removed “from any area of the United States Capitol which is accessible to the public,” it says.
As it stands, works can only be removed from this collection if the state who gifted it approves the removal. The new measure would amend that rule, by inserting the bold text below into the current statute:
And the President is authorized to invite all the States to provide and furnish statues, in marble or bronze, not exceeding two in number for each State, of deceased persons who have been citizens thereof, and illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services (other than persons who served voluntarily in the military forces or government of the Confederate States of America or in the military forces or government of a State while the State was in rebellion against the United States), such as each State may deem to be worthy of this national commemoration; and when so furnished, the same shall be placed in the old hall of the House of Representatives, in the Capitol of the United States, which is set apart, or so much thereof as may be necessary, as a national statuary hall for the purpose herein indicated.
So far, Arkansas and North Carolina have been good sports about removal, already agreeing to the replacement of their contested contributions. Arkansas approved the removal of a statue of Aycock, and North Carolina agreed to the removal of a statue of Clarke. “But the current statues remain in the Capitol until the new ones are finished,” notes The Hill.
Florida is also game, having agreed to replace a statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith with a statue of civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune. Last year, Virginia agreed to replace a Robert E. Lee statue with one of civil rights activist Barbara Johns.
But other states have no current plans for replacement, leaving in place statues of Taney, Calhoun (gifted by South Carolina), Confederacy President Jefferson Davis (a statue from Mississippi), Confederacy Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens (from Georgia), and Confederate military officer and politician Wade Hampton (also
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